I feel a certainty that Pacquiao is going to beat Bradley decisively. That knowing smile of Pacquiao is very evident this week. Manny knows. And I think Bradley knows too.
Through the build-up Bradley has been talking big about what he's going to do to Pacquiao but at the weigh-in yesterday, his words had considerably less sting. When Bradley spoke to Max Kellerman on the stage moments after the fighter staredown with Pacquiao, he did not exude an unbeatable, destructive aura. No, he sounded almost regretful. "I gotta knock him out," was the Bradley sentence that most stood out for me. He did not say, "I will knock him out."
He couldn't say it. Because I don't believe he can do it. And deep down, he knows that.
Bradley can talk all he wants about how he won the first fight but I still remember in the ring after he was awarded the controversial decision, he was asked if he truly felt he won the fight and he did not give a definitive, affirmative answer. Instead, Bradley said something about needing to see the tape of the fight again.
If a fighter knows he won a fight, he knows it. And he will say it. Loud and proud.
Bradley knows he did not win the first fight. And I suspect he knows he's not winning the rematch later tonight.
On the other side, Pacquiao's motivations are far more potent. There is a sense of revenge inspiring Pacquiao, for the blatant injustice by the judges and also the way Bradley has been verbally disrespecting him, his skills, and his competitive spirit. On top of that, Pacquiao still has to prove to his doubters that the devastating KO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez was an anomaly.
There are other elements to Pacquiao's mission. He will want to prove that he still has "killer instinct." That he can still dazzle and destroy. That he can still perform at a level of excellence that simply awes the world.
And Pacquiao knows he still has three major tasks left in his career and there is plenty of work to be done. Bradley must be defeated tonight, for a second time.
Then the fight with Mayweather must happen later this year. And by the turmoil erupting recently at Golden Boy and Showtime, it appears investors are tiring of Mayweather's act of ducking lucrative super fights in favor of disappointing sparring sessions against inferior opposition which generate limited revenue and in some cases major losses (Mayweather-Guerrero fight).
Yes, it's looking more and more like the powers-that-be are aligning to finally sacrifice Floyd Mayweather to Manny Pacquiao, to produce the biggest money superfight in the history of boxing.
And then of course, Pacquiao will have to fight Juan Manuel Marquez for the fifth time, to avenge the brutal KO loss.
But the first step of the final stage of the illustrious career of the 35 year old Manny Pacquiao is to make sure he takes care of business tonight with Tim Bradley.